Founder Lester L. Buttram heard from God in 1926 a very clear instruction — “Print My Word.” Then the Lord placed certain conditions on how the Word would be printed and distributed.
Secondly, Mr. Buttram was never to promote a particular denomination or church doctrine.
From these simple, yet direct guidelines, The Gospel Tract Society was formed. Within hours of hearing from God, Mr. Buttram withdrew $7.10 from his bank account and went to a print shop in Springfield, Missouri. He boldly told the owner of his burden to publish Gospel tracts, and asked that she print as many tracts as she could for that small amount.
Moved by his enthusiasm and sincerity, she replied, “You’re really serious about this aren’t you, Lester?” “Oh yes Ma’am. I’m very serious.” The owner smiled: “Lester, I’m going to double your order and give you $15.00 worth of tracts.”
This offer from the print shop owner showed that God was already speaking to hearts about this new ministry. Soon these tracts were mailed out and Mr. Buttram earned the money to buy stamps. Immediately, response began to come back through the mail, for men and women across the country wanted free Gospel tracts. Some enclosed a small donation – most did not.
Then a financial breakthrough came when Mr. Buttram received a check for $100.00 from William Dyke, a wheat farmer in Montana. To a struggling young man in the 1920s, this seemed like a fortune. His mother urged Mr. Buttram to return the money: “Son, this man doesn’t know you or that you just have a few tracts printed at a time. Return the money and thank him for his help.”
Mr. Buttram reluctantly did as his mother asked. However, in a few days the check arrived back. In rather terse terms the man wrote, “Mr. Buttram, I sent you the check in the first place because God told me to. Now here it is, and use it to print the Gospel.”
With part of that money, a little hand-operated Kelsey press was bought along with a supply of ink and paper.
Mr. Buttram’s father was sympathetic to his cause and provided a work area for the new ministry. He removed a cow stall in the barn and built partitions. Lined with tar paper to keep the wind out, shelves and tables were built from orange crates and Gospel Tract Society had moved forward.
The forward steps continued. By faith, Mr. Buttram continued to improve his methods and update his equipment. When discouragement arose, it was defeated by the prayers of Mr. Buttram and his family. God honored the prayers, fasting, sacrifice and dedication of those early years.
Mr. Buttram married Ethel Berneice Viola Theimer in 1940, and together they had four children: David, Paul, Tom and Phillip. Lester Buttram passed away in December, 1990, and his wife Ethel (Mom B) took his place as president until her passing in October of 1992.
From October of 1992 until January of 2006, Lester and Ethel’s eldest son David served as president of Gospel Tract Society. Upon David’s passing in 2006, ministry leadership was guided by David’s younger brother Tom Buttram. Tom turned over the reins to his youngest brother, Phillip, in January 2014.
The core values begun by Lester Buttram in 1926 remain today. We still print and distribute God’s word through the printed page and make these materials available to anyone who can genuinely use them—and we still rely on financial gifts from our constituents to continue our operations.